On Dec. 1, 2019, Joseph Ouzounian, MD, MBA, transitioned to a permanent role as chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He had been serving as interim chair since Nov. 1, 2018, leading the department with his vast scope of knowledge, his characteristic warmth, and a steadfast commitment to the field.

At the clinical level, he is also chief of the division of maternal-fetal medicine and vice chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Ouzounian first graduated from the Keck School, then from an obstetrics and gynecology residency and a maternal-fetal medicine fellowship, both at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center.

Throughout his long, distinguished career, Ouzounian has maintained a steadfast passion for his work. It’s a career path that he embraced for a number of reasons, including the countless opportunities it affords to help others.

A career built on a practical approach to compassion

“We used to say all the time, ‘If you want to help people, work with people,’” Ouzounian said.

This drive to help others could have led to any number of careers, but his additional skills would steer his path toward medicine.

“I always liked doing things that were challenging from an intellectual point of view,” he explained.

He also loved working with his hands and tinkered with classic car restoration to earn money in high school and college.

As he took these varied interests into account, he realized medicine would give him the opportunity to apply all of his talents while helping people and providing for a family.

When choosing his specialty, Ouzounian was drawn to obstetrics and gynecology for similar reasons.

“It offered me the opportunity to do so many things,” he said. “You were able to do primary care, gynecological surgery and had the opportunity to see these patients for life. You could take care of a patient from age 15 through menopause and beyond.”

A curious, generous mind

Over the course of Ouzounian’s career, there has been one particular principle that has continuously guided him.

“Everything is constantly evolving in academic medicine,” he said, “So you always need to keep learning. I always tell my kids, ‘I’m still learning.’ And I think that’s a healthy approach in medicine.”

When it comes to students considering a specialty in obstetrics, Ouzounian is ready to encourage them with enthusiasm. If asked, he “would tell them how hugely rewarding this specialty is.”

Much of that fulfillment comes back to the opportunity to provide service in such a wide variety of ways.

“It’s so unique in that you get to do so much — from delivering babies to surgery to primary health,” he said.

He also cherishes the long-term doctor-patient relationships that his specialty inherently fosters.

“I get Christmas cards from patients whose babies I delivered 25 years ago,” he said proudly.

Not long ago, he discovered that one of his medical students had been a baby that he personally delivered. The revelation delighted him, and he carries this moment as a source of continuing inspiration.

Looking forward with clear purpose

When asked what his recent career transition meant to him, Ouzounian didn’t hesitate.

“It’s truly an honor to serve as chair of the department,” he stated. “It’s a department that has a distinguished, prolific history.”

Citing high-quality care and research advancements in obstetrics and gynecology at Keck Medicine and the Keck School, he professed a deep commitment to seeing this level of exceptional medicine continue on his watch.

“I take this responsibility seriously,” Ouzounian said, “And accept the inherent duties involved in honoring the capabilities and contributions of this department.”

— by Kate Faye